Our focus is on typefaces for studying giant quantities of textual content and data in probably the most environment friendly, legible, pleasurable, understandable, and efficient means doable. As an illustration, typefaces used for a novel, an instructional paper in a journal, or a prolonged on-line article like this one which makes use of the Elena typeface, that you’re studying now on this webpage. The questions that we’ll discover are:

  • How effectively do typefaces for prolonged studying truly work?
  • How effectively does a typeface work and carry out towards one other comparable typeface?
  • How would we check to see if there may be any distinction between a great sans serif and a serif typeface with customers?
  • What would the world’s most perfect, greatest follow and design research-driven extremely legible serif, sans serif, and slab serif presumably be like? What traits and themes could be most advisable, and do we want a central public listing of facets and options?
  • There may be each the aesthetic and practical facet to a typeface, however what’s the practical facet, and the way can or not it’s investigated and measured?
  • How good is a brand new typeface, and the way good is it in comparison with an identical typeface designed in earlier years?

Ought to typefaces be measured? There is no such thing as a easy reply. The quick reply: sure. The lengthy reply: it’s a tough and imprecise activity. We are going to talk about the professionals and the cons, and I’ll present you what issues are concerned and the way we may go about doing it.

A Very Quick Introduction To Typefaces

For 100s of years, we’ve loved utilizing typefaces. These compiled programs for letters and symbols, that are representations of sounds and data, get a number of use and are a big a part of graphic communication.

The primary movable sort machine, and subsequently the primary printing press, was created by a person named Bi Sheng, who lived in Yingshan, China, from what we consider to be 970–1051 AD — over 4 full centuries earlier than Johannes Gutenberg was even born. The moveable sort, sculptured in a lead-based alloy — which is basically steel blocks of letters and symbols that may be moved, organized, and used for mass printing — was Johannes Gutenberg’s contribution. Quick ahead to the early Sixties, phototypesetting programs appeared. These gadgets consisted of glass disks (one per typeface) that spun in entrance of a lightweight supply, which uncovered characters onto light-sensitive paper. Afterward, within the Nineteen Eighties, sort began for use in a digital context in computer systems. And at present, we nonetheless have sort in a digital context, nevertheless it travels by means of cables, wirelessly on smartphones, and in digital actuality glasses in 3D.

There are numerous completely different classifications of typefaces. To call a couple of: sans serif, serif, slab serif, script, handwritten, show, decorative, stencil, and monospace. In a means, know-how additionally created new typeface classifications. At this time, we even have blended typefaces with parts of serif and sans serif, such because the Luc(as) de Groot’s typeface TheMix. This variety provides to the issue and complexity of defining and testing typefaces.

Causes To Measure The Efficiency Of Typefaces?

As a result of know-how has made it doable to design typefaces simpler than ever earlier than, we appear to be reinventing “several types of wheels” that already get the job accomplished. Nonetheless, moderately than reinventing these typefaces, possibly we are able to get some goal measures, study from what works and what doesn’t work, after which design objectively higher wheels (typefaces).

In case your intention is to supply a brand new typeface primarily based on historic exemplars, custom, or design, then high-quality, that is what you’ll be aiming for. Alternatively, if you wish to do one thing new and expressive, or that has by no means been accomplished earlier than, then high-quality, in fact. Nonetheless, some contexts, conditions, and customers want and demand extremely practical typefaces.

As I briefly talked about, measuring a typeface’s effectiveness is tough. Since many new typefaces will not be equipped with any goal concrete testing information, how will we decide how effectively they work and the place they succeed or fail?

Ought to We Measure The Typeface Alone, And/Or The Context And Surroundings That The Typeface Is Used In?

When contemplating the questions above, we are able to see that it is a giant and sophisticated subject. There are numerous several types of info, conditions by which info is used, varieties of environments, and there are lots of completely different classes of individuals. Listed here are some excessive examples:

  • An individual who’s aged making an attempt to learn street indicators, driving residence at night time;
  • An accountant doing a considerable amount of numerical calculations for a million-pound/greenback firm, needing to show across the work in half-hour;
  • An adolescent studying to learn for the primary time, sitting at the back of a automotive full of individuals on bumpy roads;
  • An individual with dyslexia making an attempt to learn and full their night class task.

Measuring Typefaces And The Ensuing Efficiency Knowledge

One of many explanation why measuring a typeface’s effectiveness is tough is that we can’t precisely measure what goes on in folks’s minds. Many elements are invisible, as Paul Luna — a professor on the College of Studying’s Division of Typography & Graphic Communication — mentions on this video Paul Luna on the typographer’s task. As well as, Robert Waller, info designer on the Simplification Centre states:

“Legibility analysis has a protracted historical past (going again to the 1870s). A variety of points has been studied, together with sort dimension, line spacing, line size, typestyle, serifs, and extra. Nonetheless, as Buckingham in New data on the typography of textbooks identified comparatively early on, these elements work together in advanced methods, apparently unrecognizable by many researchers. Certainly, in current instances a consensus has grown that the interplay of variables in sort design is so advanced that few generalizable findings may be discovered (see an extended overview in Robert Waller’s “Typography and discourse”).”

Robert Waller in Comparing Typefaces For Airport Signs

Moreover, Ralf Hermann, director of Typography.Guru in his article says:

“Doing scientific research to check which typefaces work greatest on this regard, is sort of not possible to do. For a correct check setup you would wish to change one parameter whereas preserving each different parameter unchanged. However setting a letter or phrase in several typefaces cannot be thought-about as “altering one parameter”, as a result of a typeface consists of dozens of related parameters like x-height, weight, distinction, width — simply to call a couple of. So scientific exams for typeface legibility are sometimes filled with flaws. Fairly often the typefaces are set on the similar level dimension, however as each graphic designer ought to know, the purpose dimension doesn’t replicate the precise dimension of the letters in print or on-screen. So when you come throughout a scientific legibility examine that compares typefaces set on the similar level dimension, don’t even trouble to learn on!”

Ralf Hermann at What Makes Letters Legible?

The observations expressed in these quotes reveal that testing typefaces entails many advanced elements. Due to this complexity, it must be rigorously managed and modified, however it could not even be definitely worth the effort.

Consistency And Variables

When testing typefaces or a choice of typefaces towards one other, we have to maintain the typographic design parameters and variables the identical, so we don’t introduce or change the beforehand examined sort settings. One instance is the distinction between the typefaces’ x-height’s (the peak of a lowercase x) of any two typefaces we’re testing. It’s unlikely that they would be the similar, as x-heights differ enormously. Thus, one of many two typeface x-height’s will appear to be bigger in dimension, though it could be the identical level dimension within the software program. I’ll present you extra about typographic variables underneath the part “Particular Typographic Design Variables Affecting Efficiency” within the second a part of this text.

Robert Waller mentions in “The Clear Print standard: arguments for a flexible approach” that “though each level dimension and x-height are specified, it’s the level dimension (pt) that’s mostly quoted — and level dimension is a notoriously imprecise measure.” It’s, nevertheless, simpler and correct to set an x-height measurement and set the typefaces being in comparison with that very same x-height measurement. The x-height utilizing level sizes truly leads to completely different sizes — and doesn’t look inconsistent between completely different typefaces.

Discover on the first line that we are able to see that each typefaces are set to 26 pt in Adobe InDesign. Nonetheless, when you have a look at the tops of the “erdana” you possibly can see that they go barely above the road, so the Verdana typeface is, in essence, bigger than the Information Show typeface, even when they’re each typeset at 26 factors. On the 2nd line, each typefaces have been typeset to a constant and correct measurement of an x-height of 5.5 mm. Discover that whereas the x-height is similar for each typefaces on the 2nd line, it provides a unique level dimension for every typeface. This is the reason level dimension just isn’t an correct method to measure typeface dimension and for testing and evaluating two or extra typefaces.

Moreover, how you utilize and typeset the typeface within the precise typographic design and format (line size, typeface dimension, coloration, spacing, main, and so forth) might be extra necessary than the precise typeface used. Thus, you could possibly use one of many world’s most legible typefaces, however when you typeset it with a number one of -7 factors and a line size of 100 characters, it might be rendered almost ineffective.

As you possibly can see, we are able to’t use a singular issue to measure typefaces. As a substitute, we have to tackle a number of elements inside the design system. All of them need to work effectively collectively to deliver an excellent and efficient closing presentation.

Do We Want To Resolve On A Base Default Typeface To Standardized Take a look at Typefaces In opposition to?

I wish to make issues extra difficult. (Bear in mind after I instructed you this text had some tough and sophisticated points?) So for example, let’s say that we wish to check a serif typeface towards one other serif after which once more a sans serif towards one other sans serif. One would suppose that one of many two serifs or one of many sans serifs would carry out higher than the opposite, proper? Properly possibly, however not fairly. Now, let’s say that we’ve the earlier particular person testing two serif typefaces and two sans serif typefaces. What would occur if another person did the identical check however then examined their serif and sans serif towards a completely different serif and sans serif typefaces that the first particular person used. Properly, the result’s merely that two folks examined a serif and a sans serif typeface towards completely different serif and sans serif typefaces, and they don’t seem to be cross comparable.

So, the query is: ought to we, as a neighborhood, resolve on base typefaces to check towards? So, for a serif, it’s fairly widespread and customary in tutorial journals to check towards Instances New Roman. So, for sans serif, Arial is once more one other widespread base typeface usually used to check one other sans serif towards. Then for monospace, Courier?

Final however not least, we’ve 2 folks beforehand testing typefaces, however what typographic design and typesetting settings and variables did they use? As soon as once more, much more inconsistency is launched as a result of they’d most positively check their typefaces with completely different typographic designs and typesetting settings. Do we have to set a base/default typographic design and typesetting, so everybody exams and measures towards the identical factor?

The Distinction Between Close to-identical Typefaces: Two Transient Discussions

There are numerous typefaces, and plenty of of them are very comparable or are almost similar to earlier or up to date variations out there. Listed here are some examples:

  • Neue Haas Grotesk (1956), Helvetica (1957), Arial (1982), Bau (2002), Akkurat (2004), Aktiv Grotesk (2010), Acumin (2015), Actual (2015);
  • Frutiger (1976), Myriad (1992), Monotype SST (2017), Squad (2018), Silta (2018);
  • Collis (1993), Novel (2008), Elena (2010), Permian (2011), Lava (2013).

Observe: For extra info, see my article “No more new similar typefaces for extended reading, please!

If we have a look at a typeface like Garamond, we are able to see that there are lots of variations of Garamond — all with barely completely different interpretations of what the final word or most correct model of Garamond is. Moreover, they’re all designed for barely completely different makes use of, contexts, and technological selections:

Typeface designers and foundries supplying these variations of Garamond say theirs is the most effective, however which one is correct? They had been all designed for barely completely different contexts and technological instances. It could be fascinating to search out out what the efficiency variations are between these very comparable typefaces.

Moreover, if we evaluate a typeface like Minion Professional (which is kind of sturdy and durable) towards a typeface like Monotype Baskerville, we are able to observe that Minion Professional has extra constant stroke widths and barely much less character than Monotype Baskerville. In distinction, Monotype Baskerville has extra variance in stroke width, with extra of a fancy and complicated character than Minion Professional. Due to this fact, how would these variations have an effect on their efficiency? Maybe there isn’t any one proper reply to those questions.

I actually really feel, in 2022, that we, as designers, researchers, and lecturers, have actually constructed up some pretty smart and cheap conclusions primarily based on earlier analysis and former arguments over the past years. However, the questions appear to stay round — what are the traits that make typefaces work somewhat bit higher, and what could be “extra advisable?”

Kai Bernau’s Impartial Typeface

Impartial, a typeface designed by Kai Bernau, is an fascinating instance of how an excellent utopian legible typeface would possibly look and be like. We will see within the picture beneath that Bernau has analyzed the high-quality and really refined traits which can be widespread in impartial typefaces, such Univers, Helvetica, TheSans, and so forth.

The time period “impartial” principally refers to a typeface design that doesn’t say a lot or doesn’t say something and that has a really “no fashion/nameless” really feel and voice — like the colour gray. Consider it like chatting with somebody with little character or who has a not-obvious character. In his design, Bernau is looking for out what an nearly merged letter skeleton of all these impartial typefaces would seem like when evaluating all these typefaces.

Kai Bernau’s Impartial typeface started as a commencement undertaking at KABK (the Academy of Art, The Hague), taking inspiration from typefaces that appear ageless, stay recent and related even a long time after they had been designed. His undertaking was constructed primarily based on a set of parameters derived by measuring and averaging various widespread Twentieth-century sans serif fonts (like Helvetica, Univers, Frutiger, Meta, and TheSans), making an attempt to design the final word “impartial” font. It’s a very fascinating concept that builds on earlier greatest practices to search out an optimum resolution. That is far more just like the conceptual typeface design that we have to see sooner or later. For extra, see the “An Idea of a typeface” article by Kai Bernau.

Can A Utopian Extremely Legible Typeface Exist?

Bernau’s typeface goals for neutrality and utopian legibility. Nonetheless, if I requested the query: what would the world’s most legible sans serif, serif, or slab serif typeface seem like? How significantly better than a usually good extremely legible sans serif, serif, or slab serif typeface wouldn’t it be? Moreover, is it even definitely worth the effort?

No matter your ideas are, it’s the designer’s job to design issues that work and skim effectively. Including to this dialog, Sofie Beier (a legibility professional) says:

“Within the historical past of design, there are lots of examples of designers proposing an &lsduo;perfect typeface&rsduo;. The very fact is that there isn’t any optimum typeface fashion. An intensive literature overview exhibits that typeface legibility varies considerably relying on the studying scenario.”

Sofie Beier in Bringing Together Science And Typography

Maybe, we should always think about creating a central listing of the weather, analysis, information, sources, and facets to create legible and usable typefaces, so we are able to simply select? This will result in higher typeface design choices, selections, and higher typefaces sooner or later.

Altering The Change: From What To What?

One more reason why we have to measure typefaces and understand how effectively they work is highlighted by David Sless, info design pioneer and director of the Communication Analysis Institute in Australia, in his article “Altering the change: from what to what?”:

“Change is sweet. Design is all about change; bringing one thing into the world that didn’t exist earlier than; altering from an undesirable to a fascinating state of affairs; enchancment; progress! And now we’re even altering the change! […]

Benchmarking is that a part of the design course of the place you ask how an present system is performing towards agreed efficiency necessities set on the scoping stage of the design course of. Placing the matter merely, when you change one thing after which declare that the change is an enchancment, you’ll want to have some earlier than and after measurements. […]

A lot design work… is redesign moderately than design from scratch. An necessary a part of redesign is to ask: the place are we proper now? What’s the present efficiency of this design? What is occurring on this planet now which we don’t wish to occur, or we’d like to alter? The place will we wish to go? What will we wish to obtain right here? […]

So I’m all in favour of change, even altering the change. However we have to know what we’re altering from. […]

Except we glance rigorously at what we’re doing now earlier than making a change, we would throw out some good bits.”

David Sless

This is without doubt one of the causes we have to measure typefaces and understand how effectively they carry out. That means, after we design new ones sooner or later, we are able to study from previous information after which use that data in future typefaces, moderately than counting on a little bit of analysis and private self-expression.

Redesigning typefaces makes us find yourself in the identical place (whether or not good or dangerous), and we’re not essentially making and designing higher typefaces. Though typeface design supplies us with each the aesthetic enchantment to satisfy the practical wants, it’s the practical want and its practical facet that’s regularly lacking.

With the ideas talked about above, I wish to increase one other debate, as a result of I do know that typographic discussions and debates are normally helpful and productive for all concerned.

Are Typefaces Instruments, Software program, Objects, Merchandise Or What?

It is a query that isn’t simply answered. It will depend on what place you resolve to take. Kris Sowersby, director of Klim Type Foundry argues that typefaces will not be instruments in his article “A typeface is not a tool”:

“In concept, designers may carry out all of their typesetting jobs with the identical one or two typefaces. However they don’t. I can nearly assure this comes all the way down to aesthetics. They select a typeface for its emotive, visceral and visible qualities — the way it seems to be and feels. Designers don’t use typefaces like a builder makes use of a hammer.

The perform of a typeface is to speak visually and culturally.”

— Kris Sowersby

Although Sowersby factors out a practical facet, he makes no point out that typefaces are used to realize sure and exact responses and results from customers’ behaviors and emotional responses. For instance, I’d select typefaces particularly due to their legibility — when a typeface is taken into account legible and easy-to-read by folks with less-than-good eyesight. And so a well-designed typeface (or device) is essential.

One more reason I could select a typeface is to deliver a sure “extra perfect” and to deliver a “extra particular” response and habits from folks. So, I may select a typeface as a device for higher communication with particular audiences. That is just like why we select a hammer over one other, regardless that all of them do the identical job. There are 100s of several types of hammers, however builders do appear to have an “emotional favourite.”

As well as, typefaces may be roughly legible on completely different screens and monitor resolutions as a result of they are often rendered with various levels of high quality and sharpness.

Allow us to transfer on to a extra exact and doubtless extra necessary facet, and that’s testing information worth.

The Two Sorts Of Testing Knowledge: “Subjective” And “Goal”

When testing, there are two varieties of testing information: subjective (that means primarily coming from a private view and opinion) and goal (coming from a consequence from actuality or the power to do or not do one thing). They’re precious in their very own methods. Nonetheless, an goal measurement could also be extra fascinating. It’s necessary to know the distinction between the 2. Under is a short description of each because it applies to our matter:

  • A subjective measure:
    A consumer says: “I can learn this typeface higher.” This can be the case and what the particular person feels. Nonetheless, if the measurement, on this case, is “higher,” then the questions are: how significantly better, what sort of a measure and the way correct a measure is “higher,” and the way significantly better (than what) is it? Nonetheless, what one particular person likes might not be what one other one likes. Is it higher as a result of I mentioned so? They might not be capable of describe or know why they prefer it, however they only say: “I prefer it.” As a result of this measure relies on what the particular person feels, it isn’t precisely measurable.
  • An goal measure:
    A consumer recognized a letter appropriately and inside a sure timeframe. The info is both appropriate or incorrect, they might or couldn’t do it, and so they did or didn’t do it in a measurable recorded time span.

Kevin Larson, principal researcher on Microsoft’s Superior Studying Applied sciences crew, explains:

“Whereas I usually agree with you on the significance of goal information, and most of my work has collected studying velocity measures of 1 variety or one other, I believe there may be fascinating subjective information.”

Kevin Larson

David Sless additionally states in his article “Choosing the proper technique for testing:”

“The primary is that inexperienced, untrained, or misguided info designers ask the improper questions: what do folks consider my designs? Which of my designs do they like? What should my artifact seem like? What info should my artifact include? The second cause is that asking the improper questions concerning the design, leads inevitably to sure methods of asking questions — strategies of testing which give insufficient solutions.”

David Sless

David Sless continues the dialogue by including [slightly reworded and edited by me]:

“Angle and opinion surveys, desire exams, professional opinion, and content-based design, are primarily based on the improper questions and are extremely subjective as a result of they arrive from folks’s views, data build-ups and preferences… The appropriate, or significantly better, extra simply measurable and extra correct query, relies on consumer efficiency, setting them duties to do, then utilizing diagnostic testing to see if they will or can’t do the duties, and making any notes, presumably recording how lengthy it took them to do it. A much more helpful query to ask earlier than you design a brand new info artifact or redesign an present one is: what do I would like folks to have the ability to do with this artifact?”

In abstract, a very powerful query is: what do we would like the customers to do? Based mostly on the earlier examples and discussions on this article, we are able to see that not all information or info gained is essentially helpful or correct.

What Do We Need Individuals To Do With Extremely Legible Typefaces?

Consulting Sless’ article “Altering the change: from what to what?” once more:

“A much more helpful query to ask earlier than you design a brand new info artifact or redesign an present one is: what do I would like folks to have the ability to do with this artifact?”

David Sless

Let’s attempt to define what we would like folks to do with extremely legible typefaces for prolonged studying, like studying giant quantities of data, successfully and exactly:

  • We wish them to have the ability to acknowledge what every letter, phrase, and image is;
  • We wish the typeface to replicate and match the content material and message for the typeface to reinforce and assist it;
  • We wish them to grasp, soak up and comprehend as a lot of the knowledge as doable;
  • We wish to encourage, maintain and allow excessive motivation ranges when and studying the textual content;
  • We wish them to possibly type a bond with the textual content and typography, feeling that the knowledge is top of the range, respectful and worthy;
  • We wish to tire them as little as doable;
  • We wish to present typography in probably the most environment friendly means, reminiscent of main, monitoring, kerning, typeface dimension, coloration, line size, hyphenation, capitalization, and phrase spacing;
  • We wish completely different classes of individuals — like folks with imaginative and prescient impairments, folks with low imaginative and prescient or very dangerous eyesight, folks with dyslexia or aphasia, or who’ve particular letter necessities, like youngsters studying to learn — to at the very least have letters and symbols designed to assist or match their wants as greatest as doable. We wish to enable accessibility by way of OpenType or stylistic choices with the typeface, so they’re out there to make use of if wanted. These factors may very well be prolonged to language assist as effectively.

Extra Coming Up In Half 2

Allow us to dive into extra of those wonderful advanced points (as I mentioned they’d be) within the second a part of this text — out there subsequent Friday, June tenth. We are going to look deeply at how we are able to check typefaces and the right way to get the most effective out of it. Keep tuned!

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